Google’s Privacy Sandbox, including the Topics API, is coming to Android
Google has unveiled plans to roll out several Privacy Sandbox initiatives on Android, including the Topics API, the FLEDGE API for custom audiences and remarketing, and the Attribution Reporting API. Beginning today, developers can review the initial proposals and share feedback via the Android developer site.
The company is currently in the initial design proposal phase and expects a beta launch by the end of the year, with scaled testing occurring in 2023. Google also plans to provide regular updates on designs and timelines as it moves towards implementation.
Why we care. Google's Topics API replaced its FLoC targeting solution in January -- roughly a year after we learned that FLoC was the company's frontrunner for replacing third-party cookies. The Topics API's inclusion here may suggest that Google is more confident in its latest targeting proposal.
As such, concerns around the Topics API, such as the limited pool of topics available at launch, may also be relevant to advertising in Google's mobile ecosystem as well.
The company was keen to highlight the need for input on these proposals from entities across the industry, which apparently includes regulators (or at least the UK's Competition and Markets Authority). Hopefully, this willingness to collaborate will result in proposals that can actually live up to the Privacy Sandbox's mission of creating technologies that protect user privacy while providing businesses with tools to support their revenue streams.
Google believes alternatives like Apple's ATT drive shady workarounds. Google's strategy with the Privacy Sandbox stands in contrast to Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT). The latter requests permission for tracking; users can allow a given app to track their activity or ask the app not to track them.
When asked whether Google has explored a solution similar to Apple's ATT, Anthony Chavez, VP, product management, Android security & privacy at Google, explained that the company doesn't think developers should be forced to choose between user privacy and their ability to monetize.
"We've seen that blunt approaches which simply restrict the existing [advertising] tools without providing alternative paths can actually be ineffective at improving user privacy and actually can lead to worse outcomes by driving fingerprinting or covert tracking," he said.
Collaborating with the industry. As mentioned above, Google is monitoring feedback for its Privacy Sandbox proposals on Android via the Android developer site.
App companies such as Snap Inc., Activision Blizzard, Rovio and Duolingo have voiced their excitement to collaborate with Google on developing these initiatives. And, "We intend to apply the principles of our commitments to the CMA [the UK's Competition and Markets Authority] with our web efforts to Android as well," Chavez said, referencing the company's announcement that it would design and implement Privacy Sandbox proposals with criteria from the CMA in mind.
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